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Saturday, May 4, 2019

No, Mueller's Not Disappointing Us



On his interview show on Wednesday, Bob Cesca interviewed Gaslight Nation co-host Sarah Kendzior. Sarah is extremely skeptical that Bob Mueller is doing any good, and even said that he might be complicit. I thought that was nuts, and posted my reactions on Bob's Patreon page. I wanted to put them up here, because they reflect thoughts that I'm tweeting way too much the last couple of days, and I'd rather have them live here. So here's a slightly-cleaned up compilation of three posts I wrote:

I still don't get the frustration with Mueller. We really do know now that he was always skating on thin ice as far as his investigation being shut down. I don't know what he could have done better, and I think this will play out over the coming months as the other investigations that he helped initiate move along.... it's kinda like at the end of Rogue One, with Mueller as the dude who's running from Vader before the doors close trying to hand off the Death Star plans.

As of tonight, it seems that, as I predicted on the day the Barr letter came out, Barr shut Mueller down early. He went as far as he was allowed to go -- remember, he had just requested six months' more funding just a few weeks before; I think he was meaning to more or less continue full force, and then Barr, as Vader, chased him down and he got out the best report he could. But now those investigations, plus Congress, know the Death Star weak points, and we're going to see TIE fighters [JASON'S NOTE, 5/3/19, 11:22 PM -- Jesus Christ, I meant X-Wings. Idiot. Thanks, Elliot.] fanning out to go after them in the coming months. Of course, in Star Wars, those TIE fighters got off a one-in-a-million shot to destroy the Death Star. This may not work, but it's giving us a better chance than a lot of people seem to think.

Maybe I'm being pollyannish -- I'm certainly being dorkish -- but I saw a *LOT* from Mueller that I liked, and his work just felt to me to be way beyond the 9/11 Commission, or Fitzgerald, or any of the other kinda half-assed investigations we've seen in our lifetimes.

Additionally, it sucks, but aside from Mueller working within the constraints of Mueller's job, Democrats are always working under the constraints of the media. If the Dems don't move at the right pace and lay out their case to the public carefully, the media just doesn't believe them, the public tunes it out, and the GOP jumps all over the Dems about jumping to conclusions. I believe strongly that Pelosi is planning impeachment hearings, but is waiting for a few things to happen (or be blocked from happening by the GOP, making themselves look worse) before she launches them. Those include getting the unredacted Mueller report (that appears to be blocked), having Barr testify in front of the House (also blocked), having Mueller testify (Barr could probably figure out a way to block him), and having McGahn testify (he's a private citizen now and I'm not sure how Trump could stop him short of jailing him, incapacitating him, or blackmailing him. I expect to see each of these things play out one way or another over the next 4-6 weeks.

The interview reminded me why I have some issues with Kendzior. She says things that make sense for a while, and then kind of like Rand Paul, just moves into Crazytown. I'm certainly open to the possibility that I'm wrong, and that Mueller didn't take things seriously enough, but I don't think for one damned minute that he's *complicit*. That's ridiculous. And, unlike what Sarah said, we found out yesterday that Mueller *is* still on the DOJ payroll. What are the penalties for violating their policies? I bet they're steep.

She's right that the Mueller report is incomplete, but as I said above, I believe that's because his work was cut short. He was investigating a LOT more than was in the report, things that led me to believe that he was being pretty comprehensive, but that didn't get mentioned in the report. He WAS investigating Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and even Brexit. We knew that based on who he was interviewing.

And as for the lack of indictments, I believed that Kushner, Junior, and Ivanka would get indicted later in 2019. Mueller was headed there. He didn't get the time he expected to have in the end. If he'd  indicted any of them without an airtight case, once again, the media would've been all over him. Additionally, does anyone think his work had nothing to do with getting Assange arrested right near the end?

Mueller's not a superhero. But the work he did was a productive part of a collaborative effort that is giving us a true shot at making things better. Trump wanted to fire him over and over and over for a reason. Short of, say, evidence that he really was working with the GOP, it'll be really difficult to convince me otherwise.

A number of people have said that Mueller should've held a press conference by now. He can't do that, potentially under penalty of prison, as long as he's still employed by the government, which we didn't know for sure he was until a few days ago. I was expecting since the first day Barr's letter dropped that he had Mueller handcuffed in some way, and that appears to be one of them.

So, instead, soon after we get to see (85% of) Mueller's report, "someone" leaks Mueller's letter to Barr (and the fact that Mueller memorialized his thoughts on this in a letter is seen as a pretty serious step in that context) the day before Barr goes up before the Senate and two days before he goes up before the House. Barr ends up looking like a fool and a liar in front of the Senate on an eight hour nationally televised event, and then has to bail on the House. Then the Democrats in the House, who are not handcuffed the way Mueller would be because Barr can't fire them or jail them, and also, unlike Mueller, can actually take action against Barr by holding him in contempt (which they apparently will do, probably most wisely after sending him a subpoena and giving him a week or two to defy it on the record), and then have options after that -- they could put him in the clinker, which they probably won't, they can impeach him and conduct full-on hearings, or they can use it as evidence in an upcoming impeachment of Trump. And neither Barr nor Trump can stop them from doing these things.

Kenzior said that Mueller isn't really "playing chess." I believe he is, but he understands that if he moves his rook diagonally to try to check the king, it's his rook that gets taken off the board, not the king. Or probably more accurate, in a game that's bigger than one person, he *is* the rook. Nancy's the queen (ooh, I do love this metaphor), and she's waiting for the right opening to start SMASHING pieces. I have found in chess that novice players get so eager to use their queen early because it's so powerful, but when they're playing a more experienced player, that queen is off the board in like the next five moves because the player discounts the fact that the queen, while it has a greater variety of moves than the other pieces, it's just as vulnerable as any of the others, and the better player is quietly watching that piece for that vulnerability to be exposed. Once that queen is gone, the novice player is pretty much fucked and because he was betting everything on the queen, and it all just goes irreversibly downhill from there.

We cannot afford to lose the queen, so we need to properly build up to the point where she can make her biggest moves by taking some of the GOP's pieces, who could otherwise capture her, off of the board. And that would be bad, because our king is basically this country's democracy. So, use our rook (Mueller) to castle the king and play some offense (like taking pieces like Flynn and Manafort off the board), let our pawns (in this case, let's say people like Liz Warren who has a platform but not much direct power make some noise about impeachment and start to move towards the other end of the board, where, if they make it, can turn into more powerful pieces), use knights and bishops like Nadler, Schiff, Waters, and Harris to turn up the heat on Mad King Trump at an appropriate pace by issuing subpoenas and daring him to defy them and taking his plays off the board (like turning people like Cohen and McGahn against him). Then you give yourself options for paths to victory (the narrow chance of getting so much horrible shit out on Trump that when you impeach the Senate has to convict, one of the other jurisdictions indicting him, or leaving him isolated and flailing alone for 20 moves until he runs out of steam in November 2020).

I don't play chess much because I don't have the patience (and I suck), but I understand the rules and the hypothetical strategies. I *THINK* I see the strategy the real players are playing here. Trump and his people will keep on thinking they're making big moves while they're actually making things worse for themselves (like being excited in March when they quickly move Barr up the board and then watch helplessly as Kamala Harris captures him and they can't play him, at least as effectively, anymore), and the Dems and their non-corrupted allies in law enforcement are subtly setting a trap to be sprung at the correct time. Republicans hate our whole system so badly that they can get away with overturning the board and declaring victory. Democrats cannot overturn the board, because, frankly, we care about living to play another day.

OK, that's a lot of chess. But, bottom line is the result. I'd rather use impeachment in 2-3 months when we've worked things to the point that the media and even a few Republicans are in the in our column than gamble from less of a position of strength today. I *think* it has a better chance to save democracy. Come three months from now, if I don't see the progress I'm looking for, I'll be more inclined to join the likes of Sarah Kendzior. But I'm optimistic. This feels more like 1974 than 2005.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Something I've Been Muellering...



It's funny; a lot of people have said "Oh, we *told* you Robert Mueller was no superhero and the only way you're going to get Trump out of office is voting in 2020." Strangely, while I actually thought, and still do think, that there's a chance that Mueller could be the reason Trump leaves office (or even that his work still could indict Trump), just because we are in *such* uncharted waters -- as I've said for more than two years now, I think anything can happen on the spectrum of possibilities from a removal of the whole regime and a revote/installation of HRC or Pelosi to Trump just declaring martial law, I've never thought of Mueller as a superhero.

And I didn't, at the beginning, expect him to do that great a job. But I want to say this about him: Having lived through the "investigations" of 9/11 and Iraq, Mueller's investigation has felt *nothing* like that kind of a whitewash. Dude's turned over rocks that I thought only the most conspiratorial of us would've even thought of. He's been incredibly thorough. We know what we've seen. We know Trump worked with Russia. We know he obstructed justice. We also know what both Trump and Russia's M.O.s are, and of course they worked together. Russia's been doing this sort of thing all over the world for a decade. Mueller knows all of this and probably a whole lot of things we probably don't.

We're not blind, and neither are Mueller and his team. If they're not telling us they think Trump colluded with Russia to steal the election (and, remember this -- lesser men in his field recognize it)... they're probably somehow being gagged.

I'm going to stand by that. We may not find that out now or anytime soon (hell, it took half a decade to unearth Nixon's Vietnam shenanigans from 1968), but I think I will see proof of it in my lifetime.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Seriously, Fuck Donna Brazile




Back in late 2017 when Donna Brazile accused the DNC of rigging the 2016 elections in favor of Hillary Clinton, I wrote a trio of posts that remain among the most read posts I've ever written:


Fuck Donna Brazile

Donna Brazile Backs Down

OK, That's Enough, Donna


From the first post:


...I have never been impressed with Brazile. She ran Al Gore's 2000 campaign, which chose Joe-friggin'-Lieberman as a VP candidate and which ran away from Bill Clinton, who had a 60%+ approval rating. She's since held a number of different positions in the party, but also was one of the first Democratic talking heads I became familiar with when I began watching cable news in the early 2000s. She was never very strong on TV, and as I started to identify with the Democratic Party more and more, I always cringed to see her represent the Democratic point of view... So, I'm establishing here that I'm not a fan of hers. At all. And now she's gone from being disappointing to me to being infuriating. Perhaps the reason she's lost pretty much every election she's been involved with is that she doesn't understand how American politics works.
Well, this week, Brazile decided to take her talents to the south side of West 46th Street and join Fox News. She still doesn't understand how American politics works -- and that's being generous. From Booman:

Donna Brazile should know that if you need to write a 900-word essay to rationalize taking your new job, you’re probably not going to convince your critics. If she wants to pay the mortgage with Rupert Murdoch’s money, she can do so without insulting everyone’s intelligence by trying to make the assignment sound high-minded. She will be a commentator at Fox News for the 2020 presidential election cycle, and she has every right to be excited about the challenge or opportunity or whatever you want to call it when a liberal agrees to play Alan Colmes to Sean Hannity on a network that is committed more every day to promoting white nationalism and Islamophobia.
Some of Brazile’s arguments are flat out laughable.

Read the rest. And again, fuck Donna Brazile.

Soundtrack to this post:



Friday, March 1, 2019

RICO-LA!!!!!!!!!!!



Last week I blew through Andrew McCabe's book, Threat. It wasn't that remarkable -- there was nothing as remarkable as this -- but this rang a bell in my head:


Back in the first few months after the election -- more than six months before Bob Mueller's investigation was a twinkle in Rod Rosenstein's eye -- there was a lot of talk in some of the not-so-credible corners of the Trump-Russia conspiracy theorizing Twitterverse of the entire Republican Party being taken down by RICO. As much sense as it made as the only solution to the looming metastasis of literal fascism in the United States, I couldn't believe it could happen because it seemed to me like Trump and his cronies were going to be able to prevent any attempts to investigate them and Putin-enabled authoritarianism was going to be the new normal. Those were incredibly dark days for me.

Today, largely due to Trump just being really, really bad at being a dictator (to paraphrase Homer Simpson, "I'M TIRED OF BEING A WANNABE DICTATOR! I WANNA BE A DICTATOR!"), there are at least 17 investigations into Trump and his associates, including several over which he has absolutely no authority. Sure seems like he's fucked. But what about the GOP, who follow him around with their noses in his ass? Could there be large-scale consequences for them? I'm going to say I still doubt it. I do think it's possible that certain Republican elected officials who are so deep into this massive scandal could be indicted -- Lindsey Graham, Dana Rohrabacher, Jim Jordan, Devin Nunes, Mark Meadows, and Chuck Grassley come to mind -- however, could there be an effort to pull the entire plant out by the roots? Probably not, but...

About a year ago, in a post aptly titled, "Why I Watch (So Much) CNN," I explained, well, why I watch so much CNN:

Why do I bother? It's not like I'm going to learn anything there I'm not going to lean on the internet. In fact, cable news is, for the most part, months behind. I mean, it's been pretty apparent since late 2016 that Trump's campaign had colluded with Russia to steal the election, and we knew in October 2016 that the New York branch of the FBI was conspiring against Hillary. Most of the news hasn't even gotten that far. But that's why I watch CNN. I learn just how far the press has gotten in their willingness to call a particular spade a spade. In the case of Trump/Russia, the press would barely acknowledge it at all until Buzzfeed published the Steele "dossier." They were skeptical about it for a long time, but hookers and pee make for good TV. The next big milestone was probably the Comey firing, when the talking heads could start musing about obstruction of justice. However, almost no one would actually discuss WHY Trump obstructed justice. As more Russia news came out, such as the Trump Tower meeting, much of it was discussed as more or less as a series of isolated incidents.
Things are changing now. Trump's attacks on Mueller, particularly the revelation that Trump tried to fire him, is starting to elicit talk of Trump actually covering up crimes, and sometimes, the TV personalities will even allude to those crimes being Russia related. Occasionally, they'll discuss whether or not a sitting President can be indicted.
But they haven't gotten to where we were (though that could've changed tonight; I haven't gotten my nightly Lemon fix yet) in December of 2016. We knew that Russia had meddled in the election, with the help of the Trump campaign, and that the election was stolen.
I don't know whether they'll get there, but I'd say the next steps are for the CNN types to acknowledge, on air, that Trump cheated. Then they'll need to discuss what the consequences should be for stealing an election. Finally, and I don't think this'll happen, CNN panelists and perhaps hosts will call for an overturning of the election. That's what I'm watching for.

As we've seen since, things have continued to change. And tonight I saw something I hadn't seen before:


That's the first mention I've heard of RICO on CNN in this context. Meanwhile, on MSNBC:



That's three times in ten days. Something's in the air...

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Did Andrew McCabe Give Away the Game?

Just a quick hit because I'm very surprised I'm not finding anyone else saying this on Twitter or anywhere else.

This morning, when I first saw this clip on CNN, I did a double take because I thought I heard McCabe about to say something very, very interesting, but he pulled back. Watch this and also read the quote:



There is potentially something very, very heavy in that ellipsis. Here's that quote, with captioning:


OK, so far, nothing strange. But check out the next caption:



Listen to the clip at that moment...

What's missing is what's in the dash between the "and"s. Specifically, a syllable.

Listen again... "and chea -- and won...."

I'm pretty sure what he was about to say was: "I was speaking to the man who had just run for the presidency and CHEATED..."

I heard that when I heard it live, and nothing I'm seeing or hearing is making me hear it any differently.

The FBI leadership from 2016 believes Trump actively stole the election. I think the cat's out of the bag.

Am I wrong?